How do you find joy and happiness when you feel the walls are closing in and you cannot conceive of an exit?
I often read that self-care is the key to more joy and happiness. To that many parents of children with autism would say, "Self-care... Are you kidding me! I cannot remember the last time I slept through the night. I don't know when I showered last. A bath? Your are kidding, right?"
Here are some of the common recommendations from the internet on how to take better care of yourself. I am sure it is nothing parents with a child on the autism spectrum haven't heard already.
1. Be willing to accept help
2. Keep a list of what others can do to help
3. Use time to recuperate, not to get more work done
4. Utilize every possible (safe) respite opportunity
5. Get involved in a community
6. Encourage independent playtime
7. Individual or Group Therapy
I know these are reasonable recommendations but many of the parents I work with in my private practice would say, “Blah, blah, blah! Really? Really! If I cannot find time for a shower, how do you expect me to find time to make a list? Find a babysitter. Get involved in the community. Teach my kid to play by himself (my child’s therapist told me to not let him do that). AND go to individual AND group therapy?”
I hear you! Sometimes finding time is just another chore, another thing to do and more trouble than it is worth. Life can be really hard. Work can be really hard. Parenting can be really, really hard. Parenting a child with the challenges of autism is really, really, REALLY HARD! There needs to be something more than just another to do list. There needs to be something that is quick and easy and gets to happiness and joy fast. What's the key?
It turns out the key to finding joy and happiness is in the passing moments of your life and how you chose to experience them. You do not have to DO anything different. You just have to shift your thinking a bit.
It is about how we choose to think about things. Do we see a dark cloud or do we see the silver lining? If you slam the door and spiral into the hole of misfortune and despair, you have but one dark road. Getting an autism diagnosis is often a crushing experience that can dim all dreams for your child’s future and it does take time to process.
As you process, though, I gently encourage you to think about autism in a different way. To experience more joy and happiness; try to think about autism in a different, positive way. I encourage you to remember all the good times and all the tender times with your child. Focus on what he can do. See your child’s strengths! I encourage you to remember that the diagnosis did not change your child but does provide information about what your child may need to reach his potential in life.
It is a philosophical shift in how you view autism. Like so many things in life; once you are open to the potential, you are able to see the future as many roads headed towards opportunity. Joy and happiness can walk right through your door helping you move towards a beautiful and bright future.
The following three TED Talks are about happiness and joy. You might be surprised by who is happier than who and why.
Hope they help bring more joy and happiness to your life. Here is to Bright Futures for all children!
For more information on autism contact Zoe@BrightFuturesAEI.com